Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Sure it involves only ten families in far away Guam, but to those ten families it is no small matter.

The families are on the verge of being thrown out of their public housing.

Families living in housing owned by the Department of Public Works face eviction once their leases run out.

Guam's former Public Works Facilities Manager Jaimie Martinez signed leases with people, allowing them to live in former government of Guam teacher housing owned by the agency.

But Public Works Director Larry Perez told Guampdom.com Martinez didn't have the authority to sign contracts or leases. The department will allow the leases to expire and then the people living there would be removed, he said.

Say what?

Some bureaucrat screws up and the result is families are homeless.

Doesn't sound right to me.

One resident is Kathy Duenas. She and her eight children may soon be living on the street.

Duenas said she moved into the house in 2005 after she said a Public Works employee struck a deal with her to allow her and her family to live there rent-free, if she had the power and water connected. Duenas said she made the deal with Jaimie Martinez, who she believed was the director of Public Works at the time. Perez said Martinez had been a DPW facilities manager.

Mr. Martinez isn't taken calls.

Seems to me the authorities need to find her and the others some new digs. After all it wasn't the residents here who screwed up.

And these evictions are only part of the story.

Last year, Duenas' electricity was disconnected for lack of payment. When she went to the GPA office to reinstate her power, she was informed she needed another letter of authorization from Public Works.

When Duenas went to Public Works, she said Martinez was gone and Public Works employees could find no record of her lease agreement.

"Luckily, I remembered that Jaimie gave me the authorization before," Duenas told the Pacific Daily News last week. "They said, 'Let me see it,' and I gave it to them and they took it from me."
Duenas said Public Works wouldn't give her back the authorization.

"They said, 'This paper stays here,'" said Duenas.

With no proof of her lease agreement, Duenas has been without electricity ever since, with the exception of rare instances when she can afford to run a generator.

Duenas said she and her family also have been without running water for more than a year and are entirely dependent on water donated by friends and family.

"I try to do as much as I can for the comfort of my children," said Duenas. "Even if it is only a few hours of TV."

At night, the home is dark. None of the windows have glass and when it rains, the water comes in, Duenas said.

None of the doors in the house have working locks or close fully. Duenas said at night, she pushes the couch against the front door and sleeps on it to ensure no one comes in. She said the rear door often is pushed open by dogs.

Duenas said her sister, Theresa Duenas, had been camped in a tent in her yard until entering into a lease agreement with Public Works to move into one of another set of abandoned buildings in Dededo.

"Those houses are 20 times better than these ones," said Duenas. "I asked Public Works if they would let me stay in one of them, since these ones are unsafe and they don't want me to stay here anymore, but I have never heard anything back from them, other than that they say they don't have any money."

Guam is unincorporated territory of the United States.

Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton in the Guam caucuses in the Democratic White House battle by a mere seven votes.

Think either of them have ever even thought about the housing and public housing problems faced by the poor of Guam? Think either of them even think about Guam? Think they'll mention Guam in their speeches this week?

The following is from the Pacific Daily News (Guam).

10 families face eviction: Perez says notices to be delivered this week
By Beau Hodai

All residents living in Department of Public Works housing are facing eviction by the end of next week.

Norma Gogo said she's been living in an Agat home owned by Public Works for six years.

"I don't know why they're making an issue out of this," said Gogo. "They're saying we're illegal here, how can we be illegal when everybody here went through a legal procedure?"

Gogo said she approached the governor's office in 2002 and was referred to Public Works. She then established a lease agreement.

"Where can we go if we all get evicted out of here?" Gogo asked. "We don't want to all wind up in a tent city at Nimitz Beach."

But the families will have to find new living arrangements.

"I have instructed my staff, in the interest of safety of the public and in the interest of limiting or avoiding any liability to the government of Guam, to compose eviction notices for my signature," said Larry Perez, director of Public Works.

Perez said the notices of eviction will be delivered to all tenants by the end of the week and they will be enforced by the end of next week.

The director said former Public Works Facilities Manager Jaimie Martinez signed leases with people that allowed them to live in former government of Guam teacher housing owned by the agency. But Perez said Martinez didn't have the authority to sign contracts or leases, making all of them null and void.

Last Thursday, Perez said the department would allow the leases to expire and then the people living there would be evicted. Yesterday, Perez said his investigation was essentially over and that he is "very confident that there are no contracts out there that have not expired."

Oscar Yanger, Public Works field and maintenance superintendent, said fewer than 20 leases issued by Martinez have been discovered, but he isn't sure if there are more. Perez said Martinez retired from the department more than six months ago, and that the department hasn't been renewing or validating any of the leases since his departure.

According to Perez, there are 50 of the buildings. According to Yanger, the buildings are distributed between Talofofo, Dededo, Agat and Yigo.

'Where are we going to go'

Gogo said that she, like many other residents, has invested much time and effort into making her home livable and questioned the department's definition of "safe."

"If they want to make an agreement with the people that live around here, why doesn't the director come down here and negotiate with the people who live around here, instead of evicting us?" Gogo asked. "Where are we going to go?"

Walter Nauta (pictured above), a recreation leader at the Agat mayor's office, lives in a building at the Agat DPW complex with his wife, daughter and his daughter's boyfriend. There are 10 families, or approximately 70 people living in 10 of the Agat complex's 20 buildings, according to Nauta.

He said that his family moved into Building 7 at the complex in 2004, under a lease agreement with Martinez, agreeing to pay $400 per month in cash each month. He said he never received a copy of his lease agreement.

Nauta moved into a different building in the Agat complex because of flooding issues, then asked Public Works to make some repairs. He said he was told the department didn't have money for the repairs.

He said that he then stopped paying rent and used the money to bring the building up to living standards.

Nauta said he's never received notification from Public Works on its plans to evict his family.

"What are we going to do if they kick us out?" he asked.

Ben Cruz has been living in one of the buildings with his wife, Eloise, since 2004. He also had a lease agreement with Martinez where he could stay in the house for $500 per month.

Cruz said he stopped paying the rent when a copy of his lease failed to materialize and because the department refused to make repairs.

"Every time we would ask to have something repaired here, Jaimie would say that they didn't have any funding, no materials, no tools," said Cruz.

Cruz said he has received no word about evictions.

Allowed to stay

Perez said the only tenants allowed to remain are not-for-profit organizations that have signed memorandums of agreement with the department. Such groups include the Knights of Columbus and Island Girl Power, according to Perez.

Perez said his staff has conducted "random tests" on rent receipts, which weren't Treasurer of Guam receipts. The agency has found corresponding deposits made by the Treasurer of Guam. Perez said no criminal action is being alleged, but if any improprieties are discovered, he will hand the case over to the Office of Attorney General.

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